In the 2008 presidential election, more Americans than ever voted prior to election day. An estimated 30% of the nation’s voters (almost 40 million) cast their ballots at early-voting polling places or by mail.
The numbers are growing, up from 20% in 2004 – and from 7% in 1992. Data are especially impressive in the South, the Southwest and the West Coast. In Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, early or mail-in votes were a substantial majority of all votes cast. Mail-in voting, in particular, seems to be the trendy way to go, with more and more states allowing “no-excuse” permanent absentee voting. In California mail ballot votes alone were almost 6 million or 43% of the total. Since 1998 Oregon requires that all elections be conducted by mail; it is the only state to do so, although others are considering such a radical move.
Under the mail-in voting systems, citizens may prepare their ballots when and where they choose, days or perhaps weeks before the general election day, while campaigning is still going on, alone or in the company of family members, friends, political cronies, co-workers; they may drop them off at city and county offices, special collection centers, special or regular mailboxes. According to 2008 news reports, in Oregon and Colorado “voting parties” were held in private homes, groups of people getting together for a few hours to share thoughts on candidates and issues, read newspapers and broadsides, openly mark their ballots at kitchen or coffee tables and take them to the nearest mailbox. And parties being parties, there was also small talk, snacks, drinking and dancing.
Political scientists are beginning to investigate the impact of these new developments on electoral behavior, partisan electioneering and candidate strategies. So do, of course, party strategists: how do you influence voters who may have already voted when you reach them at the frenzied peak of the fall campaign? What is most striking from a historical point of view, however, is the change the new developments bring about in the relationship of the individual voter to the collective, public, synchronic performance of voting, or, in other words, the relationship of the bodies of individual voters to the national body politic. Continua a leggere qui.